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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 4-11 December

Translated by Toni Michel (@villageescape) – read his latest article “Why Europe Should Care About Kazakhstan’s Coming Power Transition at

The week of 04-11 December saw a string of quite constructive activities all over Central Asia. The conflict between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was finally put aside after an agreement between the two Presidents from the previous week had been fulfilled. Cross-border traffic and trade has since returned to normal. China this week was very present in Central Asia as well, investing four billion dollars into a factory construction project in Kazakhstan’s Aktobe Region while in neighboring Uzbekistan, China’s CNPC is beginning to drill natural gas with “Uzbekneftegaz”. Finally, Afghanistan’s President was visiting Tashkent this week and the two-day talks of Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon in Jordan deserve our attention.


Kazakh and Turkmen Foreign Ministers At Meeting Of Caspian States
Kazakhstan’s and Turkmenistan’s chief diplomats were in Moscow this week for a two-day foreign ministers’ meeting among Caspian-adjacent states. Progress was made on the details of a convention on the status of the Caspian Sea which could soon be officially signed. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that “the negotiated borders will already be enshrined in treaties to be signed on the 2018 Caspian Summit in Kazakhstan. (Ria Novosti, 05 December)


Nazarbayev And Jeenbekov Satisfied With Roadmap Negotiations

The Presidents of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Sooronbai Jeenbekov were speaking by phone last week and expressed satisfaction with the results of negotiations on a common roadmap to normalize relations that had been concluded in Astana on 02 December of this year. The two leaders furthermore exchanged views on the state and perspective of mutual relations. The call came about upon Bishkek’s initiative. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, 06 December)

China Invests $4bn In Aktobe Factory Construction Project

The Chinese corporation Tianjin Bohua Petrochemical is investing $4bn into the construction of a factory in Kazakhstan’s Aktobe Region that is to produce Polypropylene and Polypropylene from natural gas. The corresponding memorandum on cooperation was signed during a working visit of Aktobe’s Akim [regional leader] Berdibek Saparbayev to Beijing. The project is expected to create 3000 jobs while the eventual production will mainly service the Chinese and Kazakh markets. Neighbouring countries could however also be supplied. After the completion of preliminary works, the project should be finished within two to three years. (Kazinform, 04 December)

Kazakh Banks Again Profitable After Crisis

Following three months of loss-making, Kazakhstan’s second-order banks reported $3,1mln in total profits. After accumulated exchanges of capitals in these banks dropped from 3 trillion Tenge ($9bn) to 2,7 trillion Tenge ($8,1bn) in July 2017, the pre-crisis level of 3 trillion Tenge had been restored already this past October. Over the first nine months of this years, Kazakh second-order banks had suffered losses of 122,8 billion Tenge ($368,7mln). (, 05 December)

Nazarbayev Praises Businesses of Utemuratov, Smagulov And Kulibayev

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev lauded prominent entrepreneurs Nurlan Smagulov, Bulat Utemuratov and Timur Kulibayev for their investment in the country’s economy during the TV-show “Leap Of The Kazakh Panther: A New Industrialization Strategy For The Country:”. “Nurlan Smagulov is building malls in Almaty, in Astana and everywhere else; he is putting up money, taking loans and is investing in Kazakhstan. We should also recognize Bulat Utemuratov who payed for 25% of the Ritz-Carlton and brought in 75% of outside investment – just like Timur Kulibayev with the St. Regis”, Nazarbayev said. He went on to stress that these projects were setting the gold standard for the hotel business. (, 06 December)


Uzbek Government Eases Monetary Restrictions

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed an order to alter the obligatory requirement to declare exchanges in foreign currencies under $2000 for private persons. Citizens will now be allowed to transfer up to $5000 out of Uzbekistan without permit. Higher sums will be subject to clearance by the Central Bank for residents – or decided on the basis of the customs code declaration for non-residents. The Presidential Order will go into effect on 01 January 2018. (Official Website of the President of Uzbekistan, 07 December)

Chinese Firm CNPC Importing Gas From Uzbekistan

Cooperating with “Uzbekneftegaz”, the Chinese corporation CNPC has begun extracting gas in Qorako‘l, a district of the Southern Bukhara Region. The project will be managed by the jointly-owned company “New Silk Road Oil And Gas”. In the future, the company will begin developing the gas fields “Sharkii Alat” and “Chodzhadavlat” as well as begin construction of a gas pipeline of 43km in length. It is expected that gas deliveries for export will increase by up to 1bn cbm per year thanks to the project. (, 07 December)

20 Agreements On Cooperation Signed During Afghan President’s Visit To Uzbekistan

A trip by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani to Tashkent has culminated in the signature of 20 cooperation accords, including a joint commission on security, the electricity pipeline “Surchon – Puli Churmi”, the train track “Mazar-i-Sharif – Sheberghan – Maymana – Heart” as well as over 40 export agreements valued at more than $500mln. According to the documents, Uzbekistan will deliver electricity, agricultural and pharmaceutical products as well as construction and infrastructure materials to Afghanistan. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, 05 December)

Alisher Usmanov To Invest Heavily In Uzbekistan

Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov has declared that he is ready to invest considerably in Uzbekistan and to support Tashkent in building up its external economic relations. “I am ready to help in any way and have already begun to do so. My role today is to advise, consult and to pursue charitable projects”, Usmanov said. Asked about how much money he is ready to invest in Uzbekistan, Usmanov added: “As much as I can.” The businessman went on to talk about strengthening of ties between the Russian holding company USM, in which he is holding 49% of assets, and the Uzbek metallurgical industry. (Reuters, 05 December)


Jeenbekov Vows To Increase Transparency In Government Salaries
President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has announced new transparency measures on salaries of Kyrgyzstan’s state and municipal officials, law-enforcement as well as the supervision and court authorities. “We will make all efforts so that the country can develop and that the Kyrgyz people do not have to suffer from corruption. I am sure that all branches of government – legislative, executive and judicative – will closely cooperate to push all our anti-corruption initiatives forward”, a Presidential statement said that was delivered by the head of the Presidential Administration, Almaz Usenov, during a conference to counter corruption in Kyrgyzstan. (, 11 December)

Kyrgyzstan Introduces Tax Privileges For Big Foreign Investors

The Kyrgyz government has announced a stabilization program for investors who contribute considerable sums to the Republic’s economy. “This mechanism allows all investors who devote more than $3mln over three years to the economy to make use of the stabilization scheme that allows them to be exempted from changes to tax legislation for 10 years”, deputy prime minister Tolkunbek Abdygulov said. He went on to say that the government would review investment legislation in the near future. (Vechernii Bishkek, 08 December)

Bishkek Says Transport Problems At Kazakh Border Solved

Kazakh Transport and Infrastructure Minister Zhamshitbek Kalilov said this past week that the border-crossings to Kazakhstan at “Chon-Kapka” “Chaldovar”, “Ak-Tilek” and “Ak-Zhol” are now permanently working. “There are no more queues at any crossings today and the two-month long problems at the border have been solved within a day and a half. At Bishkek’s heating power station, coal and beets are arriving regularly. There are still some wagons being held in Kazakhstan but only due to planned inspections; there are no more artificial delays like we have seen before”, Kalilov said. (, 05 December)


Tajik Authorities Report Considerable Rise In Gold And Silver Mining

The extraction of gold in Tajikistan has risen by 16,4 percent during the first 10 month of this year, when compared to the same period of 2016. Silver mining is up even by 89,7 percent. This is according to data released last week by the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies. The rise in mining output has been achieved through cooperation of the firms “Zarafshon” and “Aprelevka” as well as the state company “Tillon Tochik”. It is expected that the mining output for gold in 2022 will surpass the numbers for 2012 sevenfold. In recent years, the majority of permits provided for mining have been handed to Chinese companies in Tajikistan. (Asia Plus, 11 December)

Rahmon Signs Cooperation Agreements With Jordan

Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon visited Jordan this week for two days where he met King Abdullah II and prime minister Hani Fawzi Al-Mulki. The subsequent negotiations led to the signature of various cooperation accords between the two governments regarding investment protection, tariffs, higher education and science. Furthermore, the two sides signed a memorandum on mutual consultation between Tajikistan’s and Jordan’s foreign ministries and further documents on economic, trade, scientific and technical matters. (Asia Plus, 11 December)

Dushanbe Reports Increased Threat From Afghan Fighters To OSCE

Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov has raised his country’s concerns on the terrorist threat from Afghanistan during a session of OSCE foreign ministers in Vienna. He noted that the rebellion of powerful radical groups in Afghanistan and the return of ISIS fighters to the north of the country represents a grave threat not only to Tajikistan, but to all nations at the OSCE’s southern flank. “Just like our neighbors, Tajikistan is interested in a stable peace, political stability and economic revival for Afghanistan”, Aslov added. (Press Service of the Foreign Ministry of Tajikistan, 09 December)


Turkmen Government Reports 6,5 Percent GDP Growth In 11 Month Of 2017

According to Turkmenistan’s government, the growth rate of the country’s economy stood at 6,5 percent during the first 11 month of 2017. Industrial growth even was as high as 5,8 percent, construction grew 1,4 percent, the transport-communication sector reported 10,9 percent and commerce stood at 9,6 percent. Agricultural growth was at 51 percent and services at 8,9 percent. Turkmenistan’s Finance Ministry is thus calculating to achieve a total GDP growth of 6,5 percent in 2017 while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has estimated a growth rate of 5,7 percent. (Turkmen State News Agency, 11 December)

Berdimuhamedow Fires Four Ministers

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has relieved four ministers from their duties for alleged incompetence. Among them is Industry Minister Amanberdi Tuiliyev, the Minister of Labor Deriyaguly Byashimov and Agriculture Minister Nursached Sapardurdiyev. Additionally, the Deputy Prime Minister for the economy, Gochmyrat Myradov, was reprimanded. President Berdimuhamedow moreover called upon Parliament to increase the penalty for corruption. (Neutral Turkmenistan, 09 December)

VISA Denies Reports About Service Stops in Turkmenistan

Representatives of the credit services provider VISA have circulated a memo to various media organizations in which the company denies reports that it is terminating its business in Turkmenistan. “VISA is continuing to service transactions and to provide its services to all partner banks in Turkmenistan. If customers encounter any difficulties with their cards, we urgently recommend referring to our partner, Emitent Bank”, the memo said. Earlier, some media outlets reported that VISA was shutting down its operations in Turkmenistan due to accumulated debts of $30mln. (Chronika Turkmenistana, 09 December)